An Act Against Pirates and Sea-Robbers

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On July 22, 1718, Deputy Governor William Keith (1669-1749) informed Pennsylvania’s Provincial Council that several mariners delivered to the port of Philadelphia a sloop that had been seized and plundered by pirates. Less than a month later, on August 11, 1718, Keith expressed his concern over the great losses suffered by the colony at the hands of ruthless pirates operating about the capes of the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay. He specifically identified Edward Teach (1680?-1718), the notorious pirate “Blackbeard,” as the individual responsible for causing the greatest damage. He reported that Teach had ”been Lurking for some days in and about this town” and he issued a warrant for Teach’s arrest.

Born in Bristol, England, little is known of Teach’s early life. He appar¬≠ently served as a privateer during Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) and was subsequently recruited as a pirate by Captain Benjamin Hornigold who bestowed on him the command of a sloop in 1717. During the summer and autumn of that year, the pair preyed upon merchant shipping in the area of the Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake Bay. By November, Teach and Hornigold had captured a two hundred-ton Dutch-built French slave ship, the Concorde, off the coast of the island of St. Vincent. He outfitted his prize with forty cannons and renamed it Queen Anne’s Revenge. No records survive that document his activities during the early months of 1718, but in May he carried out his boldest maneuver when his fleet blockaded the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, and plundered ten vessels . The Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground on a sandbar at Topsail Inlet (now Beaufort Wet) on the North Carolina coast, after which Teach received a pardon for his activities from North Carolina’s Governor Charles Eden. Teach soon resumed his piracies aboard the Adventure, operating from a base on Ocra¬≠coke Island off the coast of North Carolina. An exasperate Alexander Spotswood, governor of Virginia, dispatched a military expedition to halt such wholesale lawlessness, and Blackbeard was killed in a brief but bloody sea battle on November 18, 1718, bringing to an end the Golden Age of Piracy that had terrorized sailors and seafarers for nearly two decades.